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Complaints about doorstep fundraising 'nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012'

Figures from the Fundraising Standards Board reveal that its members received 5,555 complaints about the method last year, compared with 2,877 in 2011

Door to door fundraising
Door to door fundraising

Complaints to charities about doorstep fundraising almost doubled between 2011 and 2012, figures from the Fundraising Standards Board show.

The regulator’s Complaints Report 2013, published today, is based on complaints received by 1,068 of its members in 2012. 

Complaints about doorstep face-to-face fundraising totalled 5,555 last year, compared with 2,877 in 2011 – an increase of 93 per cent.

The report also shows that complaints about telephone fundraising rose by almost two-thirds over the same period. 

Eighty-three per cent of charities that use doorstep fundraisers reported concerns raised by members of the public. The top cause for concern was the fundraiser’s behaviour, which prompted 2,253 of the complaints, followed by a general dislike of the method, which generated 1,008 complaints.

The report says that although the complaints do not necessarily indicate that fundraisers are failing to conform to industry standards, such a high level of public concern must be addressed.

It says that the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association is due to introduce a new doorstep compliance programme, which will better regulate the method and identify where improvements can be made.

Overall, the charities reported 33,744 complaints arising from 13.2 billion contacts with donors, also known as ‘asks’. The volume of fundraising activities grew by 38 per cent from 9.6 billion in 2011, while total complaints increased by 9 per cent from 30,838 over the same period.

The FRSB’s figures show there was an increase in activity in most fundraising areas over the course of the year. Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, put this down to improved reporting from members and the effects of the economic downturn on charities.  

"I certainly get the impression there is more fundraising activity taking place because of the cuts," he said. "Charities are determined to carry on delivering the services they are providing even though they are suffering fairly severe cuts."

Direct mail received the most complaints, 12,474. However, for the first time since the FRSB began monitoring complaints in 2008, this represented a fall for this particular method – from 14,903 in 2011. The 14 per cent fall in complaints was accompanied by a 17 per cent drop in mailings, from 172 million to 165 million.

Telephone fundraising remained the second most complained-about technique. It was the subject of 6,379 complaints, an increase of 64 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Over the same period the number of telephone asks increased by 15 per cent to 11.5 million.

Email fundraising continued to grow last year with asks up by 26 per cent to 137 million. Complaints increased by 6 per cent to 1,887. After a 282 per cent increase in email complaints between 2010 and 2011, the FRSB carried out further work and found that the greatest cause for concern was data protection, which led to 47 per cent of all complaints about email fundraising in 2012. 

While doorstep complaints soared in 2012, complaints about face-to-face fundraising in the street fell by 28 per cent to 820. The volume of activity also fell by 25 per cent to 29 million solicitations.

The number of FRSB members increased by 78 to 1,490 over the course of the year, compared with an increase of 175 in the previous year.

McLean said: "Clearly, we’d like membership to be accelerating, but our membership accounts for 50 per cent of all voluntary income raised nationally.

"Membership continues to rise, just not at the rate we saw last year. We’ve got a lot of support from the other self-regulators, sector stakeholders and the Charity Commission, so momentum is going to start picking up."

The FRSB makes a number of recommendations in the report. One is that charities should ensure donor data is updated regularly and that they should always respect individual contact preferences.

The regulator also recommends that charities monitor the performance of doorstep fundraisers and provide opportunities for the public to include feedback about it.

Concerns about individual campaigns and fundraising teams should be investigated and charities should review what can be done to address them, the report says.

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